I preached this sermon “Bursting with Jesus” at Church of the Cross, Hoffman Estates on March 2, 2014, one month after their pastor Jule N. departed. I had coached her for the previous year in my role as “Proactive Transformation Coordinator” of the Presbytery of Chicago. Our associate presbyter Jan Edmiston asked me to preach to help prepare the way for their interim. It was the first time I had received a standing ovation for a sermon–really the Holy Spirit got the ovation, inspiring the church for the next step in moving forward into God’s good future.
To see and hear a video of this sermon in its entirety go to: https://vimeo.com/87410448
We began by taking a look at a snapshot of one day in Jesus’ life: Matthew 9:14-17: “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Then we turned to current day snapshots:
“. . . I ask you, ‘Have you ever felt bursting with good news?’ Joy to the world kinda news? Like an overfilled helium balloon ready to pop?
Jesus has that effect on people. He brought good news, created quite a buzz everywhere he went, from his birth, which drew shepherds and wisemen and on. Fast forward 30 years and he drew crowds everyday of his public ministry. And that was even before the biggest news hit. Imagine that first Easter morning–the angel’s announcement to Mary of Jesus’ resurrection. It filled Mary with joy and wonder; she ran to tell everyone she met. It brought hope and a new start to Jesus’ followers. And probably fear and confusion to those who had put him to death just three days earlier.
This wasn’t the first time Jesus had impacted people this way in his public ministry. Today’s passage comes from an ordinary day in the lives of Jesus and his followers. I believe it is a good lesson to explore together. We have a window of opportunity to look at our lives anew in light of God’s word and ask, “How will we live out this year, how can this church best ‘Reach People, Grow People, and Send people for Christ’ in the places God calls us to go? . . .
A word about parables. They are stories set in ordinary life told to teach a lesson. Not a lecture, but a new reality presented in words and images. Jesus’ stories build a house for us to inhabit and from whose windows we view the world in a new way. They are difficult to understand, but once we open the front door, they continue to work in us.
In this story, Jesus talks about new versus old. A new patch sewed on an old garment won’t work. Neither will new wine poured and stored in old wineskins. Both the patch and garment will rip and the wine as it ferments will burst the skins and spill. In both cases the situation ends up worse than when we began; both the old and the new are destroyed.
On that day, Jesus’ listeners had no idea what Jesus meant. It is only after Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can hear this story with Easter ears and say, “Oh yes, Jesus was gonna burst out alright. The religion of the day couldn’t contain him. Jesus burst out of the Pharisee’s boundaries set to protect the Law. Even the grave, the grave couldn’t hold him—Jesus burst out of the tomb alive again and ready to bring new life to the whole world.
But somehow, we who have known Jesus for a lifetime, we who are regular church attendees lose sight of all this energy and newness, the radical celebration, the joy that that bursts forth when someone meets Jesus for the first time. The way Jesus calls us to change, to be transformed in our hearts and our lives and to burst out joyfully to transform our communities. Sometimes we let church become “business as usual. Ho-hum and ordinary.” We begin to focus on the work to be done, committees and cash flow. And when we become the status quo, the guardians of tradition, Jesus’ story threatens us also with new life ready to burst forth in Him. . . .
To follow the parable, in Jesus’ story, the new wine demands a new wineskin, something entirely new. What will it take for Church of the Cross to be open and intentional about becoming new– new wineskins, filled with Jesus’ joyous, new life to overflowing so we may share it with others? Is this church seeking Jesus enough to learn what God has next for Church of the Cross?
Meet the Savior of the world, meet the Risen Lord Jesus Christ this New Year. New things happen when you get to know him. New life for each of us. New life for Church of the Cross. Bursting with Jesus.”
 Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, (Combined Edition) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983,) 280.